It's a growing concern for both doctors and patients -- In increasing numbers- bacteria are learning how to outsmart drugs that used to effectively wipe them out.
Now researchers at Oklahoma Health Sciences Center are joining the battle to help us get one step ahead of these evolving bacteria.
As challenging as a game of chess, researchers in this lab at the OU Health Sciences Center check their opponents moves in hopes of finding a winning strategy.
"Our competition is really the bacteria and they're one step ahead of us all the time and one of these days we are going to be one step ahead of them," stated Dr Joseph Ferretti OUHSC Provost and Researcher.
One of those leading the charge against drug-resistant bacteria is Holly Hoffman-Roberts, a pharmacist and researcher. She and her team aim to learn why some bacteria learn how to outsmart and outlast previously effective antibiotics.
"We are looking at Streptococcus Pneumoniae, which is the most common cause of community-acquired meningitis, pneumonia, and in children, ear infections and also sinusitis," commented Roberts.
Antibiotics defeat bacteria through a process much like a key fitting into a lock. Roberts says certain bacteria find a way to change the lock.
She comments, "When I talk about the organism becoming smart, it's been able to modify the target for the drug so that it can't bind as effectively as it used to. So to use your analogy of lock and key - the key sort of still fits in, but can't turn as well as it used to."
Now utilizing new technology known as microarray analysis, Roberts and her team are able to look at changes at the genetic level in resistant bacteria. They hope to pinpoint a way to essentially fix the lock or stop the bacteria from changing it.
"We can look at very specific mutations in genes and see how they affect other genes. And this is really helpful in terms of finding ways to see new targets that we might look for or what the bacteria are doing to evade our own antibiotic therapy that we are trying to use," said Dr. Ferretti.
Ultimately, this is the type of research that could lead to ways to better treat people infected with drug-resistant bacteria.
For the KTEN HealthWatch I'm Dr. Tracy Wimbush